This page exists merely to preserve my original posts on the subject. They were posted on Usenet in 1996. Those posts are preserved within Google Groups. But of course nobody has any faith that Google will maintain any given service from one decade to the next. So I'm copying the texts here.
The title of the thing is somewhat ambiguous, by the way. I never gave it a formal label. Some people, occasionally including me, have pushed "Forgiveness Scale" on the grounds that there's enough cruelty in the world already. But I can't disagree that "Cruelty Scale" is the catchier phrase.
This is a shortish-to-medium-sized game. More than a short story, less than a full-length novel. Its rating is "cruel." It is possible to make mistakes which will prevent you from winning. Sometimes common sense will serve to avoid such mistakes; sometimes insight is necessary; sometimes neither will help. Save often, and keep your old saved games.Someone commented on this (typoing the title as "Far Side", but never mind!) I replied with a fuller explanation:
From: "Andrew C. Plotkin" <erkyrath+@CMU.EDU>(A footnote: I was still using my CMU email address, but at this point I was living in DC and working for Magnet Interactive Studios. Just a few posts later, as it happens, my CMU email was cut off and I switched to a Netcom address.)
Subject: Re: Chart News: So Far rockets to #8! Jigsaw returns.
"Cruel" was the word I used, but actually I wasn't referring to the difficulty. I was referring to, well, the cruelty rating. Or forgiveness rating, for those who like their glasses half-full.
Here's my notes on this subject:
- Merciful: cannot get stuck
- Polite: can get stuck or die, but it's immediately obvious that you're stuck or dead
- Tough: can get stuck, but it's immediately obvious that you're about to do something irrevocable
- Nasty: can get stuck, but when you do something irrevocable, it's clear
- Cruel: can get stuck by doing something which isn't obviously irrevocable (even after the act)
I expanded on the idea in a followup post:
Perhaps a better derivation would be:
- Merciful: You only ever need one save file, and that only if you want to turn the computer off and go to sleep. You never need to restore to an earlier game.
- Polite: You only need one save game, because if you do something fatally wrong, it's blatantly obvious and you'll *know* better than to save afterwards.
- Tough: There are things you can do which you'll have to save before doing. But you'll think "Ah, I'd better save before I do this."
- Nasty: There are things you can do which you'll have to save before doing. After you do one, you'll think "Oh, bugger, I should have saved before I did that."
- Cruel: You think "I should have saved back in the third room. Now I'll have to start over."
Remember, *this system does not measure difficulty.* It measures a different, and hopefully more objective, quality -- how much saving and undo-ing is necessary to finish a game.
(Not totally objective, because we can disagree about what is "obviously" irrevocable. Some people may think it sensible to save before walking into the big black temple full of evil chanting; others may be shocked when they get killed inside.)
The Cruelty Scale Revisited
Game Rambles (and others)